The Sights and Sounds of a Miniature Bazaar

Look and listen closely, there's more than meets the eye

By Google Arts & Culture

Soldiers at the hookah stall and commotion in the bazaar (1775/1800) by UnknownNational Museum - New Delhi

Commotion (Bazaar Voices)

Welcome to the bazaar! In this miniature painting, perhaps from the school of the famous Hindu artist, Nainsukh, the complex bustle of the marketplace is captured in a great sweep. But the 'commotion' is also very detailed. Let's look and listen... 

Commotion (Bazaar Voices 2)

These women, selling huqqa (tobacco smoked through a shared water-pipe) calmly make their voices (and their product!) known amongst the general hubbub. They're proving very popular.

Commotion (Bangles)

The women are richly bejewelled, wearing traditional necklaces and bangles.

Commotion (Huqqa 2)

The patrons enjoy sucking on the huqqa pipes, bubbling away. Tobacco was introduced into Medieval India, and, before long, an Akbar physician had invented the huqqa for social smoking through several pipes. Shisha bars are still popular worldwide today!

Commotion (Mulla)

A mulla (an educated theologian) in a green fur-lined coat, distinguished by a white flowing beard, stands hesitantly in the centre of the commotion, his education and bearing inhibiting him from voicing his active demand for the huqqa as vociferously as others in the crowd.

Commotion (Sword)

The market attracts people from all walks of life to hawk their wares. Not just merchants, but soldiers, too. Watch our for that lance, it looks sharp!

Hawk (a)

Speaking of hawks, this bird trainer has a tame (but poised) bird of prey on his arm, its beady eye looking out at us, the viewers. The bazaar's commotion is social, but is there a slight sense of menace?

Commotion (Dove)

But the gleaming yellow eye and sharp beak of the hawk are offset by the dove, a universal symbol of peace. The painted marketplace is a clamour of signs, sounds, and symbols.

Commotion (Distant)

A woman watches the scene from a palace window, her head in a halo and a flower held in her hand. She is obviously refined and beautiful, and her calm power seems to make the noise below fade into the distance. She, like, us, watches the commotion unfold through a frame.

Nainsukh's name literally translates as "joy for the eyes", and this rich painting, drawing on his style, is certainly a visual feast. Hopefully this audio tour has helped Commotion in the Bazaar to be a joy for the ears, too.

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